Over the past few weeks I’ve had several friends comment on the fact that I’m no longer on Instagram, and I decided that I’ll share the takeaways from my experience with social media. First, let me say that I don’t believe social media is bad. I’ve been polling people lately for a research paper on Psychic Interaction, and what I’ve found is that the most important factor regarding social media and its effects on the user is the user’s intent.
Four years ago when I decided to pursue teaching yoga full time I signed up for an Instagram account. I had been on Facebook for years, and I was looking for a visual media that wasn’t full of everyone’s projection: Projected opinions, emotions, intellectual rants seemed to be the only things surfacing on Facebook. I wanted more from my virtual social engagements so I shifted to the new media and started learning.
The human brain is a biomechanic computer; humans taught the computers how to calculate the algorithms that tell us what to like and what to not like, and now we are filing in line digesting what advertisers and politicians want us to internalize thanks to social media. I was led to believe by my yoga teacher at the time that a prerequisite to teaching yoga was a photo shoot, a solid social media following, and community buzz. I had no idea how wrong she was; I was figuratively a duck out of water.
I had decided to switch from classroom teaching to teaching yoga, but I hadn’t grown up in a yoga studio setting. My background was one-on-one teacher student study. Nevertheless, I plowed on hoping that I wasn’t too old, too unattractive, or too out of touch with the hip 20 somethings to connect and be accepted by community. I studied the algorithms and learned how to cultivate a following on social media, and I quickly realized that everything I bought into was absolutely smoke and mirrors–at least, in my personal experience.
The first real take away was that social media, regardless of what platform, is almost always a projected appearance of what the user wants the end user to see. I caveat that statement with, “almost always,” because again it comes back to intent. If your social media feed is just to share with your family and close friends and you’re not boasting thousands of followers then perhaps your feed is authentic. There is nothing wrong with having an inauthentic feed. Not everyone can look like a fashion model EVERYDAY; I mean we all need some time off. If we are defining “authentic” as having an authentic representation of the persons daily interactions then there should be as many pics with the family as there are in a crazy arm balance. Since many of us use or have used social media to publicize our blogs or careers, our social media feeds may be slightly shaded to favor an image we want (or think we want) to portray. That is fine, I don’t think there is one single thing wrong with that as long as that is your intention.
If you had asked me six months ago if my feed was authentic, I would have said yes and I wouldn’t have been lying. I believed at the time that what I was sharing was in fact my authentic voice, and it was…Still, now that I see social media more clearly, I can see that my authentic voice was projecting only the parts of me that I thought people wanted to see. I wasn’t posting pictures with my family, friends, or neighbors. I was posting and projecting one image, one facet of the whole, and it wasn’t even for the reason I intended.
Over time, I felt myself looking to my social media feed for validation. I knew that I was a wonderful mom, wife, vibrant woman, and beautiful embodiment I continued to compare my self worth to others. The icing on the cake was when I realized what was driving my post. I thought I was posting to learn how to strategize, build business, and increase my reach, but the more my following grew the sadder I got.
One day I asked myself what I was really looking for on social media and the answer baffled me. The whole time, I had really just wanted my teacher and my friends to connect with me. I realized in that moment that social media has perpetuated a misunderstanding that is causing psychic confusion across the globe. I wanted real connection, but rather than talking to my friends and my teacher I just looked at the people they followed or praised and tried to emulate that projection. If my teacher followed Shiva Rea, then I was going to be as big and bright. If my friends liked another yoga teacher’s post, I was going to make sure that my one post for that day was as likable.
I didn’t feel competition or jealousy, I genuinely wanted to be included. When I realized that I was going outside to a virtual world for connection I cut the cord and brought it back to the here and now. I reprioritized my energetic expenditures and I asked myself, ” Does it really matter if I have an Instagram account or not? Will it effect my class sizes? Will it effect who wants me to teach them?” More importantly, “Am I less of a teacher or a yogi if I don’t participate in social media?” I’m grateful that I had an excellent teacher who taught me two golden rules: #1 The student always comes first & #2 If it disturbs your peace let it go.
If the student really comes first (which I firmly believe they do), then in my opinion there is no room for my personal projection in the yoga studio, or in a virtual yoga setting. My job is to hold space and listen, guide and direct when asked, and genuinely make my students feel good. Secondly, if social media disturbs my peace while leaking psychic energy into the either then I can let it go without worrying that I’m inadvertently participating in a spiritual bypass. Ultimately, my philosophy is non-dual present moment living. Do or don’t do, all that matters is that we are here now. I am grateful that I had the experience, that I was honest with myself, and that I can move back into flow without spending time lamenting the outcome. I am gracefully awakening into the truest potential of my being without the weight of my past or the fear of my future.